“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

I am usually do not like to talk about, or even write about, political topics.   Too many of the people I hang around are entrenched “facts be damned” kind of political thinkers, and discussion in that kind of atmosphere is worse than pointless.  It’s poisonous.

This does not mean that I cannot be passionately political.  If it really matters to anyone out there, I consider myself, politically, to be a liberal-leaning moderate.  I subscribe to neither party.  I tend to vote Democratic, given few other viable alternatives, but I have voted the range from Libertarian to Green depending on the election and the issues at stake.  I tend to support causes, not candidates.

But right now I am disgusted across party lines, so you all are going to hear about it.

The Department of Labor is requesting input on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and has considered rolling back several of its provisions.  This is the act that most people associate with maternity or paternity leave, but it goes a whole lot further than that.   This does not affect some small special interest group.  It touches every single one of us. 

Have cancer or a chronic illness?  This affects you.

Have a child in the home?  This affects you.

Have a special-needs family member?  This affects you.

Caring for elderly parents or grandparents?  This affects you.

Our government has been giving lip service to supporting families for years.  Candidates will gather their wives and children around them in front of an American flag, but the dismal truth is that we have a piss-poor track record in the United States when it comes to developing policies to make family units stronger and better able to care for their own.  Politicians to the far right whine about entitlements, but will not support legislation that allows us to care for our families without having to use entitlements.  Politicians to the left focus on what to do once the family unit has broken down, but not as much about policies that keep it together.

In an ideal world, the interests of good business and the interests of employees should coincide.  Strong industry comes from a strong workforce.  In reality, our shortsightedness when it comes to our management practices and our failure to plan long-term strategies in the marketplace violate this ideal.  In an ideal world, there would be no need for the FMLA. 

We are far from an ideal world.  Human resource is just another resource to be cut to pad the bottom line in the upward flow of capital.   Even under the current provisions of FMLA (which only requires unpaid leave and only in companies over 50 employees) those whose incomes place them on the edge of the poverty line cannot afford to take family leave to care for a newborn child, a sick or elderly parent, or for long-term medical therapies.   They will continue to rely on substandard care, or will end up relying on public assistance to meet those needs.  And who pays?  We do. 

If I cannot stay home to take care of an elderly parent in end-stage sickness, I will have to seek hospice care.  If I cannot afford it, that elderly parent will end up in a charity hospital – at the expense of the public.   Or at home, alone and uncared for.  Who ultimately pays?  We do.

If my mother cannot use FMLA to take unpaid leave for her chemotherapy, she loses her job, and ends up on the rolls of the unemployed, and on Medicaid.  Who pays?  We do.

Proposed changes will force people to take FMLA in no less than four-hour increments and is considering limitations on intermittent leave.  That means, even if only two hours is needed to attend a prenatal checkup, four hours must be claimed.   This may mean that pregnant women who must use FMLA leave to obtain prenatal care may burn over half their FMLA before the baby is even born.  Net result?  They take MORE time than they need off, not less, or the child does not receive proper prenatal care.  The latter increases the risk of needing increased neonatal care, and the former shortens the time a new mother can spend at home, recovering and learning to care for her newborn child.  Who pays?  We do.

With increased insurance costs to cover the burden on the system of preventable neonatal care.

With increased taxes to cover daycare assistance.

With increased numbers of people turning to public assistance when their jobs are lost as they are forced to make decisions between caring for their families, and putting a food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Our government already sends us the message that family care is only for those who can afford to leave their jobs without pay.  All we are asking is that we have jobs to come back to.  And somehow, even that is too much?

More information can be found at the links below:

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/Default.aspx?tabid=140

http://www.halfchangedworld.com/2006/12/fmla_input_need.html

To prevent this to become a political slug-fest, I am turning off the comments on this post.

If you care about this passionately, either way, email me.

Or even better, email your Congressman.

December 11th, 2006 at 2:44 pm

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